Editors' note: This review has been updated with new features added in version 1.4, released July 25, 2013.
Sid Meier's Ace Patrol is a turn-based airplane dogfighting game that offers an interesting combat system for serious strategy-gaming fans. The latest update adds 60 new missions to sweeten the pot.
As it's a turn-based strategy game, you'll plan and execute each plane's maneuvers and attacks one at a time, then watch the computer-controlled enemies execute their moves. Though it is fairly slow-paced relative to typical air combat games, executing a balanced combat plan is definitely satisfying.
Set in World War I, Ace Patrol lets you fly in air combat missions using tactical maneuvers you earn as you level up your pilots. Your starting set of moves consists of basic maneuvers, such as bank right, bank left, dive right, dive left, and climb. But as you progress you'll learn more-advanced looping, rolling, and sliding maneuvers that help you change direction quickly. These moves show up on the game board as arrows, and you can preview your move before deciding which maneuver you want to use.
After a long battle, you might lose a pilot behind enemy lines, or simply get hit enough that a plane will have to go in for repairs. Once a pilot is stuck behind enemy lines, you'll have to wait until the end of your five-part mission to get him back. If a pilot's plane is in need of repairs, the game tells you how many missions you'll have to wait to get that pilot back. What I quickly realized is that managing your pilots and planes is extremely important to success in Ace Patrol. If all your pilots are caught behind enemy lines or under repairs, you'll be forced to skip missions while you wait to get them back. Fortunately, each pilot has a specialty to help you get out of these wait times. If your pilot is an "Escape Artist," he will be able to get back to base immediately, even if he's caught behind enemy lines. A pilot who's skilled with repairs will be able to return to action more quickly. In Ace Patrol, you're not just shooting down planes; you also need to make sure you have pilots who can get back into the fight.
Sid Meier's Ace Patrol is free, but you only get a taste of the action before you're offered in-app purchases for more missions. The game comes with one full mission (of a five-mission campaign) where you play as the British. When you're done, you can purchase the rest of the British campaign or choose to play as the Americans, the French, or the Germans. Buying a campaign lets you play through the missions and use all of the vintage airplanes for that country.